Purple Reign: RMV Purple Heart Drums

RMV is a Brazilian drum company that has been making drums and percussion products for 30 years, much longer than many of the boutique companies we’re more familiar with in North America. I’ve seen their pandieros, repiniques, and tamborims, but was only familiar with their drum sets from their advertisements. Though their percussion instruments are made with a nod to tradition, their kits incorporate some unusual woods for their shells, and some cutting edge synthetic materials in their hardware.

The first sign that these drums weren’t from the U.S. or Japan was the containers they arrived in. Instead of rectangular corrugated boxes, RMV sent two containers resembling a cardboard barrel and a cheese box. After pausing to determine how to open them, I immediately unpacked the drums, which on first impression were attractive and appeared well made.

RMV makes most of their drums from a Brazilian maple wood known as bapeva, which is much harder than the maple found in North America. The custom line kit I received was made of purple heart wood, a dense, tropical hardwood known for its resonance and volume (drums are also available in cedar and ivory). Purple heart is named for its color, and indeed the drums had a dark, rich purple color on their interior. The exterior was a nearly black purplish hue with a satin sheen and pronounced grain texture, which closely resembles the black finish of Yamaha’s Oak Custom drums, in both sheen and texture. It turned out to be a natural satin oil finish, although I thought it might have been a black finish since the drums were so dark in color. So if you get kit of your own, don’t expect a purple-colored kit, despite the photo in their catalog. Regardless, the drums were attractive.

Features

I received a five-piece drum kit shell pack (no hardware), featuring a 22" x 18" bass drum, 14" x 5 1/2" snare, 10" x 8", 12" x 9", and 14" x 13" suspended toms. The toms included narrow profile suspension-style mounts in a black powder-coated finish that nicely complemented the exterior’s dark tones. The purple heart kit I received is a limited edition of 100 that will be offered with black hardware only (other configurations are available).

All the drums feature RMV’s 2.3mm Sturdy Hoops, and the snare has ten tube-style tension lugs. The 10" and 12" drums have six lugs per head, and the 14" drum has eight. The bass drum has ten lugs per side, and its hoops were stained in a matching finish.

The tension rods and receivers are machined steel, but the tom lugs appeared to be synthetic, similar to the recently reviewed Yamaha Stage Custom Nouveau drums. The lugs are made of a strong, lightweight, and injection-molded polycarbonate composite material, and were designed so their added mass doesn’t dampen shell resonance. The material is also in the bass-drum claws, tom-mounting clamps, memory locks, and the posts that hold the tube lugs on the snare. One big plus for those of us that cart our drums, the polycarbonate is noticeably lighter that metal; and since it’s also cheaper to produce, the drums are lower in price than those with lots of chrome hardware. RMV says using this material in the tom mounts also helps isolate vibration.

Some drummers get nervous seeing synthetic materials on drums, even if they know these materials are stronger than similar metal parts. RMV offers lugs with a chrome-plated cover for their other kits, though they aren’t offered with this limited-edition set, which comes with black hardware only.

RMV makes their own heads, and offer a variety to suit many styles of music. The toms had clear single-ply batters and resonant heads underneath, the snare had a coated single-ply head that responded well to brushes, and the bass drum had a solid black logo head, with a clear batter head that had a fairly thick muffling ring around the head’s circumference.

The purple heart drums have 45-degree bearing edges on the bass drum and snare, while the toms have a sharper 60-degree edge. RMV chose to use 60-degree edges for the toms because sharper and narrower bearing edges offer greater sustain than 45-degree edges. The bass drum and snare I received had 6mm shells, and the toms have very thin 4mm shells.

Toms

I found these toms sported the features they were designed to have: lots of volume, a wide tuning range, and a healthy amount of sustain. I experimented with a variety of tunings and the drums proved to have a good range of possible pitches to suit either rock or jazz styles. The toms had more brightness than I expected, and the single-ply batter heads probably emphasized this. It could also be due to the hardness of the purple heart wood. For these reasons, I might prefer these drums with two-ply batter heads. They sounded good with the single-ply heads; I just like a fuller, lower midrange sound.

{pagebreak}

Snare

The snare has a tube-lug design, but doesn’t feature the same classic style of tube lugs found on most snares. This tube design is a straight steel cylinder fastened to the drum via two polycarbonate posts, and has a modern look. The throw-off had a metal lever, screw, and a few other parts, and the rest was polycarbonate material. It worked well, and it was easy to adjust the 20-strand snares with the throw-off in the engaged position (this is difficult with some strainers). The drum has a woody tone with lots of ringing harmonics, especially when struck off-center. A touch of tape or a thicker head would help tame the ring a bit, though that characteristic added to the drum’s rimshots, which were definitely loud and ringing. The rim-click was a little weak, and the drum wasn’t very forgiving of inexact stick placement. The drum sounded great when I dropped the snares and used it as a poor man’s timbale. Overall, the snare sounded very good — loud and crisp with a woody tone. RMV might consider die-cast hoops on this drum since that would dampen some of the ring and provide a stronger rim-click at the same time.

Bass Drum

When I put the heads on the bass drum I thought some of the receivers felt a little stiff, and found that threading them with the screw angled slightly away from the shell made it easier to get them started. The spurs are adjusted with a drum key (I’d personally prefer a wing screw), and feature retractable spikes for added grip. I loved the sound of this drum — it had a deep, thick thud, with lots of attack and fairly short sustain. The head combination sent was very effective for rock and pop styles, and I never thought to add a pillow or any additional muffling to the drum. It has everything you’d want from a 22" x 18" kick drum.

Verdict

I’d never seen an RMV kit in person, or played a drum set made from purple heart wood. So I was pleasantly surprised with both the drums and the quality of their construction. Overall, this is a very nice kit in an attractive finish. Purple heart wood sounds good and projects well. Exotic wood kits tend to be very expensive, so I was surprised to learn that this limited-edition RMV purple heart kit is only $1,999 list, which makes it an absolute steal.

Details, Details

Model: RMV Purple Heart Drums
List Price: $1,999 (for the reviewed limited-edition kit)
Sizes: 22" x 18" bass drum, 14" x 5 1/2" snare, 10" x 8", 12" x 9", and 14" x 13" suspended toms
Shells: 100-percent purple heart wood in 4mm tom shells and 6mm bass and snare shells
Hoops: 2.3mm Sturdy Hoops
Heads: Clear single-ply tom batter heads and clear resonant heads, coated single-ply snare batter head and clear snare-side head, clear bass drum batter head with muffling ring, and solid black resonant logo head